In the past 15 years, the number of
Americans living in municipalities that recognize gay unions has
increased ten-fold, according to a new study released this week by
the Washington-based think tank Third Way.
survey lists five major indicators that illustrate the “seismic
shift” between 1996, when President Bill Clinton signed into law
the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which forbids federal agencies
from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples, and
now, when President Barack Obama supports repeal of the law.
In 15 years, support for marriage
equality has doubled, from 27% to 53%. The number of Americans
living in municipalities that recognize gay unions has increased from
13 million to 143 million. The number of Fortune 500 companies
offering protections and benefits to gay employees and their partners
has increased from 19 to 291. And President Obama has declined to
defend DOMA in court.
“These findings demonstrate a
remarkable transformation on this issue to the point that it can be
argued there is a crystallizing consensus in favor of legal
relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples – extending
all the way to marriage in many parts of the country,” the survey's
authors wrote. “In 1996, DOMA was thought to have ended the debate
on marriage. But it seems to have been only the beginning of a more
profound shift in favor of gay and lesbian couples.”
Third Way's definition of recognition
includes everything from marriage to local domestic partner
registries, many of which guarantee no benefits whatsoever.
According to that definition, 143 million Americans (46.4%) live in
municipalities that recognize gay unions.